Digital illustration closeup of a dragon's eye


When most people think the word Dragon, one of two things come to mind: wise whiskered serpentine entities, or winged flying fire-breathing nightmares. Usually, these depictions are accurate to life. However, like all Fae-creatures, Dragons are also capable of changing their appearance at will.

In the past, Dragons seldom did this, as their size, appearance, and reputation was enough to guarantee their safety. However, as human technology advanced, Dragons had to adapt. That said if you know what to look for, spotting a dragon in disguise is quite easy.


Quick Note on Dragon Preferences

If you go looking for a Dragon today, don’t look for them among other animals. You’re never, for example, going to find a Dragon disguised as a Dalmatian.

The only place to find Dragons is among your fellow humans, and the simplest method for finding them is the practice of “People Watching,” (a pastime I’m sure you reading this are well-acquainted with). Simply find a seat in a coffee shop, park, or library, and observe like you’re on safari. If you keep an eye out for certain signs, you might just spot a Dragon incognito.


Signs of a Covert Dragon


1) They Love Jewelry

Beautiful golden jewelry on a black backgroundWe’ve all heard about “Dragon Hoards,” the massive piles of treasure sequestered in their lairs. Well, those stories are true. Many a moron ventured to their doom seeking these hoards and the heads of their keepers.

Dragons, like birds, love shiny things. Now, of course, in human form they can’t live in caverns and have mountains of bullion, but that predilection for shiny things carries over to their covert lives.

If you spot someone—man, woman, non-binary, genderfluid, etc.—and they’ve nonchalantly decked themselves out with jewelry in a way that might get them mugged in a bad neighborhood, then you might well be looking at a Dragon in disguise.


2) They Never Have Piercings or Tattoos

woman with corset and a dragon tattoo on the back of her shoulder

As much as Dragons love shiny things, they don’t want those shiny things piercing their skin for two reasons.

One, arrogance; Dragons already believe they’re amazing. Two, past trauma; if people had been hunting you with sharp metal objects for centuries, you wouldn’t voluntarily puncture your skin with metal either. Besides, like all Fae-creatures, Dragons have a strong aversion to some metals, particularly iron alloys.

This same reasoning applies to their tattoo aversion. To get a tattoo, a Dragon would have to voluntarily have someone puncture their skin with a needle repeatedly. In addition, having a permanent tattoo embedded into their skin would make them easily identifiable if they were to change their appearance again. Sure, the face would change, but the tattoo would still be there. Also, if you could change your appearance at will, why pay someone to do it for you?

So, if you happen to see a person with tattoos covering nearly every inch of skin, especially tattoos depicting Dragons, the chances of them being one are zero.


3) They’re Stingy

Female hands grabbing shiny coins.As previously mentioned, Dragons love jewelry. That said, while they’ll willingly spend their funds on trinkets for themselves, they’re not “giving types”. There’s a reason why warriors of old had to enter their lairs to claim a Dragon’s horde: they do not part with cash graciously. 

While money has become far less flashy, Dragons are nonetheless aware of its value. As such, every time a bill comes due, they practically must pry open their wallets or purses.

If you know someone who could beat Ebenezer Scrooge in a penny-pinching contest, you might well be the acquaintance of a Dragon in disguise.


4) They Hate Flying on Airplanes

A boy in the cabin looks out the window of the window. The concept of travel and family vacations during the holidays

This dislike has nothing to do with aerophobia or claustrophobia. Creatures capable of flight themselves and with a predilection for caverns don’t suffer from such things.

The aversion comes from the indignity of having to fly in something not powered by themselves. By their way of thinking, the idea of them—a Dragon—having to stoop so low as to have to fly in an unreliable tin can is anathema. If you could fly fast enough to break the sound barrier before Chuck Yeager was born, you’d feel this way too.


5) They’re Not Salad Fans

A man disliking broccoliHave you ever seen any depiction of a Dragon without sharp, pointed, piercing, and possibly serrated teeth ideal for cleaving through flesh like a butcher knife?

No, of course you haven’t. Dragons only eat vegetables by accident. 

One reason people hunted Dragons is the same reason they hunted foxes, raccoons, wolves, and bears. They’re predators in need of prey, and there’s no better prey than livestock—dim, docile, and readily abundant.

If you see two people on a date, and only one of them relishes their salad while the other eats it begrudgingly, you could well be looking at a Dragon desperately trying to fit in.


End Note on Dragon-Spotting

flying dragon

Dragons in disguise could look like anyone, but added knowledge of their species and homeland can provide insight into what disguise they might favor. If they’re a European species, they’re more likely to favor a disguise of European descent. If they’re an Asian species, they’re more likely to adopt a correlating visage.

However, as the world shrinks, thanks to travel and the internet, this is liable to change. Even now, you might step onto a bus and sit next to a disguised Dragon from Brazil who looks like someone from Burkina Faso. 

The only way to know for sure is to watch for other signs. But do be careful. The last thing you want is to get your head bitten off—figuratively or literally—for staring.

Best of luck and good dragon-spotting. 


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By Ian Martínez Cassmeyer

Born in Tegucigalpa, Francisco Morazán, Honduras, Ian Martínez Cassmeyer’s short fiction has appeared in the anthologies The Librarian Reshelved from Air and Nothingness Press, The Little Cozy Book from Young Needles Press, and the forthcoming indie anthology Nature Fights Back. has also published several of his articles on SFF authors and related topics. He earned his BA in English from the University of Missouri – St. Louis, attended the James Gunn Center of the Study of Science Fiction Short Fiction Writing Workshop at the University of Kansas – Lawrence, and is an Associate Member of the SFWA. He lives and works in St. Louis, Missouri.

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